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Maison Close - Season 1 [Blu-ray]
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Taking an uncompromising look at the world of brothels and prostitution in late nineteenth century France, Maison Close is a sumptuously produced drama of sex and servitude. Paris, 1871. In Paradis, a luxury brothel, three women try to escape from their troublesome circumstances. Vera is 35 years old, the end of her career as a prostitute drawing nearer. She puts all her hopes on her main client, the only one rich enough to redeem her debt. Hortense is the Madame of Paradis. She must hold on to her girls whilst dealing with an extortionist from the Parisian suburbs. Rose, a much younger woman, arrives in search of her mother, a former prostitute. She is trapped with a pimp and forcibly conscripted into the Paradis.
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This series is about a group of women who live and work in a brothel in Paris in 1872, in the months following the Paris Commune. So the city is in turmoil, and the government is maintaining order through a show of force. This involves an effort to keep 'moral order' - and, in turn, this impacts upon the control of prostitution.
We see how these women live, and the effect working as a prostitute has upon them. It is, in many ways, an ensemble piece - with several cast members having lead roles. Nonetheless, there are two women - one in her late teens, one in her late thirties - who take centre stage in the story-arc. The elder woman is doin all she can to leave her job as a prostitute, but finds this impossible. The younger woman finds herself forced into prostitution, and she suffers greatly as she attempts to resist what is happening to her.
This is a period drama, and it works brilliantly. Oddly, contemporary music is played - but this does, somehow, benefit the show.
All in all, an excellent TV series. It was followed by a second season.
The first thing that strikes you about the Series is the marvellous lighting and photography. There are frequent after-dark scenes, and the magical way they are photographed is often breathtaking. There is pin-sharp focus on the characters, but the surrounding dark, and the shadows from lamps and candles are wonderfully realised. However, nothing is sentimentalised here, in the setting or the story. There is shabbiness, ugliness and disturbing cruelty, the realism is unvarnished. This is a closed world -as it looked before electricity changed the night. The superb costumes and sets provide a stunning picture of a hidden Paris in the 1870's, brought to very convincing life.
The wonderful French actors in 'Maison Close' restore your faith in film-acting. We look for believable feeling in drama -and here, for once we find it ! Very well cast, the performances in 'Maison Close' are consistently true- almost nothing looks artificial or posed. This is acting from within, gripping the attention. We suddenly enter a shocking, desperate world, where real people are trapped on the edge of survival in an utterly ruthless setting.
What happens to these people, much of it heartbreaking, holds the viewer from the start, and this has little to do with the sexy milieu, which (surprisingly) is not exploited but portrayed with unusual frankness. This Series is so full of authentic feeling that the sexual aspect becomes just part of the unfolding human story. This is sometimes very tough stuff, and may not be everyone's cup of tea -however this is an exceptional thriller from every point of view, don't miss it.
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